Menace pumped up the volume in Mabel’s voice.
Somebody better let me out of this closet soon or I’m peeing all over this nice American flag folded in a triangle and stored in this damn closet, she said.
Earl jumped up from the table.
Goddamn, that’s the flag from my daddy’s funeral.
Oooh, here’s another one, a Confederate stars and bars, she said.
Sumbitch, that’s my great-grand-daddy’s rebel flag that’s been in the family ever since his grand-daddy headed up the KKK down there in Luzerne County.
Yeehaw, I’m going to burn this one, Mabel said.
Earl tore open the closet door and grabbed Mabel by the front of her red flannel shirt just as Zerelda walked in.
Mabel, what are you doing here?
I brought you a nice chocolate cake I baked for you being so kind to me, Mabel said.
Zerelda gave Earl the dead eye.
Where’s the cake?
Timmy Kelly and Harry Davies both used both hands to wipe devil’s food crumbs off their mouths.
I didn’t have any, ma’am. I’m trying to lose weight, Gino said.
Gino wanted out. These nuts would get him killed or locked up with the same kind of yahoo convicts he used to guard at the penitentiary. Retirement was supposed to be nice, comfortable, sunny and bright. What about his dream of reeling in catfish in the South Carolina twilight? What about standing on the beach casting his line into the surf? What about fish fries and French fries and Southern fried tomato pies? Why bother losing weight at 50, anyway? These guys were worse than an outlaw motorcycle gang. These guys weren’t his brothers.
I’m sorry about the cake, Gino said.
Zerelda fired off a scalding gaze.
I’ll run down to Joe’s Kwik Mart and get a replacement, he said.
Timmy Kelly perked right up.
You cannot go to a 7-Eleven or a Dunkin’ Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent. I’m not joking, Timmy said.
You really do sound like Joe Biden, Harry Davies said. That’s right out of his mouth. I’m impressed.
Zerelda swung a jam-packed bullet belt, caught Timmy in the back of the head and knocked him off his chair.
It was meant as a compliment, he said.
Nose-to-nose with Earl, Zerelda’s whisper sounded like hellfire hissing in a snake pit under siege.
You ate my cake. You locked my friend in the closet. You assaulted her and disrespected me.
Balling his fists and puffing out his chest, Earl refused to back up. Who did this uppity woman think she was, Michele Obama? Embarrassing him in front of his new recruits was going too far for any woman, especially his woman.
This old bag is an enemy of the people, Earl said.
Zerelda closed her eyes and clenched her teeth to keep from striking. She purposely slowed her breathing like the woman in the yoga videos she secretly watched told her to do when life seemed just too hard to handle.
Harry Davies moved to the rescue.
Hey, c’mon, pastor, that’s no way to talk to a senior citizen or to the little lady, for that matter, he said.
Stepping toward Mabel he spoke in a gentle tone.
We mistakenly thought you were some kind of terrorist, he said.
I am some kind of terrorist, Mabel said.
Harry waved her off.
Let me make it up to you, he said.
Running out to the car and back in two minutes, Harry Davies placed a box big enough for a microwave on the table.
Roll up your sleeve, grandma, he said.
Mabel and Zerelda threw each other quizzical looks.
Get your COVID vaccination while it’s hot, Harry Davies said.
I’m not just another pretty face, Mabel said.
You stole vaccine, Zerelda said.
I know a couple ex-Mafia guys who hijacked a truck, Harry Davies said.
Timmy Kelly looked up from the floor where he was afraid to move.
How much you got?
Enough to fill a 15-foot U-Haul truck.
Zerelda already knew the whole QAnon, UAnon, ScrewAnon church would soon crash and burn. She better get out while she still could.
Mable might help.
Mable was smart.
Mabel wasn’t afraid.
But Mabel had her own idea of freedom.
Mabel mulled over murder.
These boys definitely needed to go – even that polite, pudgy Gino